Return to Oz…
By Bradley Storer
The atmosphere was electrifying at the opening night of Wicked, returning to Melbourne for the first time since the original Australian production in 2008. As the lights dimmed and the first strains of music began, the audience erupted in enthusiastic applause for the musical which, for better or worse, has defined contemporary music theatre for the past decade.
Jemma Rix reviving her role as Elphaba is brilliant, marking Elphaba’s journey from a down-trodden outsider to a self-determined revolutionary but never letting us forget the wounded loner that lurks beneath the exterior. Her voice is extraordinary, a technical marvel which she employs to maximum effect throughout but whose full power she only unleashes, to spine-tingling results, in her Act One showstopper ‘Defying Gravity’.
Lucy Durack returning as Glinda the Good Witch, Elphaba’s truest and eventually only friend, was a little unsteady vocally at the beginning of the evening but found plenty of times to show off her bright sunny soprano. While Durack nails the bubbly, air-headed side of Glinda’s personality, she doesn’t fully convey the burgeoning intelligence which shapes Glinda’s journey in the second act.
Steve Danielson as Fiyero, both Elphaba and Glinda’s central love interest, is charming and competent but a little forgettable. Reg Livermore (The Wizard) and Maggie Kirkpatrick (Madam Morrible) both find opportunities to steal the show with their smaller but significant roles.
The show itself is compelling throughout the first act, the extravagant sets and costumes brought to life by the enthusiastic and skilled ensemble, but the pace begins to droop in the second act as the plots takes a darker twist. The musical’s weaknesses begin to show at this point, the cutesy and twee tone of the musical’s book ill-matched with the dramatic events that transpire. Stephen Schwartz’ score does its best to liven events, in particular Elphaba’s emotional breakdown in ‘No Good Deed’, but the true emotional impact of the show is saved for the final moments, with the last image slamming home the heart-breaking toll of what has transpired.
VENUE: Regent Theatre, 191 Collins St, Melbourne.
DATES: 10th May – 20th July
TIMES: Wednesday – 1pm & 8pm, Thursday & Friday – 8pm, Saturday – 2pm & 8pm, Sunday – 1pm & 6.30pm.
BOOKING: www.ticketmaster.com.au, Phone 1300 111 011, Ticketek Outlets or at the venue.